Does our perception of a crime change, depending on the sex appeal or M.O of a criminal? When a mugger uses scare tactics to nab a purse, he's a disgrace to society. But when a woman lifts a wallet under the guise of a seductive kiss, it's sexy. The act becomes romantic, but the crime has not changed, just our perception.
Smoking is another interchangeable perception. When the overweight, sloppy dressed, and lifeless smoke, the act becomes grossly unappealing. Bad breath, yellow teeth, and sickliness come to mind. But when a member of the "glitterati" inhale the fumes of our slender friend, a glowing ember takes on a romantic dance over a smooth and smokey tune. Attractive smokers send signals of sex, wealth, and comfort. Once again, the habit hasn't changed, only our perception.
We see this time and time again with stories like The Hustler, Oceans 11, The Sting, and DEXTER! We are attracted to those characters because of charm and style, and choose to look beyond their actions. If you think this only applies to fiction, I would press you to look up D.B Cooper, a true account of theft from an airplane. Most find his account rather thrilling.
As a final note, perhaps sex sells because it's an evolutionary advantage. Somewhere, deep in the recesses of our reptilian brain, is a predisposition for a healthy partner. A basic need to produce superior offspring, which is a stronger urge compared to our model of morality.
Here's the clip that inspired this post.